Thoughts on some of what I watched on TV last week.
The Simpsons: The Scorpion's Tale
A single plot episode (no sub plot other than Bart selling the drug illicitly, but even that tied in with the overall plot) that went pretty much nowhere. I did like the fourth act resolution being inspired by the "Greatest Generation"/Baby Boomer conflict, something the show has flirted with before, but it came out of nowhere, and I wouldn't have minded seeing it explored more instead of being used as a quickie reset button at the end. Also, the visual gag of everyone's eyes popping out was not nearly as funny as the show seemed to think it was. Werner Herzog, as the pharmaceutical magnate, was an understated and enjoyable guest appearance, and most of the first act field trip stuff was pretty funny ("this is Fools Porn!"). So not a great episode, but largely unoffensive (which is how most of this season has been).
Ralph: I wet my arm pants
Grampa: I want to know, what did you do during the war?
Hottenhoffer: World War II? I wasn't born yet.
Grampa: Funny how many Germans say that these days...
Bob's Burgers: Sheesh! Cab, Bob?
After a couple middling episodes, we got another solid one, as Bob takes a job as a cab driver and gets exposed to the seedy underbelly of the city to pay for Tina's birthday party (for whatever reason, I thought Tina was older, like a social maladjusted 16 year old). Highlights include Louise as Tina's kissing coach and Bob's post-crack comedown (“I may or may not have tried crack last night. I don't think I did! But if I did... I really liked it...).
Bob: I think I'm a pimp
Louise: You're gonna need a bigger hat.
Gene: Come on, boys! You're the peanut butter; girls, you're the jelly. Let's make some sandwiches!
Family Guy: The Hand That Rocks the Wheelchair
Does the fact that the show acknowledged it did this exact same Meg plot before, only with Brian, excuse it from the fact that it basically did the exact same plot with Meg again, only with Joe? I dunno, but I do appreciate they acknowledged it, and any opportunity for more filthy Patrick Stewart ("This feels right. But it tastes like a dirty penny") is appreciated.
The Brian/Stewie plot was similarly meta, acknowledging that Stewie has been less the evil mastermind of late (he's been busy learning about shapes). Evil Stewie's antics were predictably over the top and hyper-violent, but it's a shame his evil amounted to little more than slicing people in half. Stewie has always been more Machiavellian evil than violent evil, and it would have been nice to see that manifested in Evil Stewie along with the uber-violence.
Glee: Blame It On The Alcohol
Let me just say, my favorite thing about this episode was that Principal Figgins pronounced Ke$ha's name correctly ("K dollar sign ha").
I was actually not looking forward to this episode before watching it; Rachel kissing Blaine? An anti-alcohol message? No thanks. But it actually wasn't that bad. The after school special feel was held in check, and I definitely appreciated that the ultimate message was less "alcohol is bad" as it was "if you're gonna drink, be smart and safe about it." The ending, in which Will gives his phone number to the kids in case they need a ride home, was manipulatively sweet, but it worked (though I have to call shenanigans on Santana giving Will a hard time for admonishing them for drinking when he got drinks himself; he specifically called them out for drinking before a performance, drinking at school, and because it is illegal for them to drink at all, none of which apply to his situation).
The whole Rachel/Blaine plot ended up amounting to very little (in fact, as much as I was dreading it, it almost felt like it could have hung around and been developed a bit more). I especially liked when Blaine knocked Saint Kurt down a peg or two for giving him a hard time about going out with Rachel.
Also, this was another (increasingly rare) episode in which Will was handled in such a way that I didn't find him creepy or obnoxious. His growing friendship with Bieste is one of the few developments for his character that doesn't suck, and I laughed pretty hard when he was drunkenly grading papers. Lonely, kinda sad Will who finds happiness in his students is the Will I like, not the one who seems unable to grow up or the one who uses his students in creepy ways to attract Emma.
Things I Shouldn't Worry About: How the hell does Sue have access to a school-wide PA system? I'm pretty sure there's no way she'd have been able to start, let alone finish, that broadcast at the end.
Also, Rachel's party dress was hysterically lame.
Favorite Song: Easily "Don't You Want Me Baby?" (I love me my 80s music) but I thought "Tik Tok" was a perfect Glee song since it's already auto-tuned.
Brittany: Ke$ha's been a cultural icon for weeks, and I really want to do her music justice
Top Chef: Give Me Your Huddled Masses
That was dirty pool, Padma Lakshmi, making us all think Richard was going home. Dirty pool...
The editing of this episode made the whole "final five" revelation less than stunning, though I was willing to buy that the judges might keep minor complaints to themselves whilst in front of the remaining contestants' families. By the time Judges' Table rolled around though, it was pretty clear either the editors were MAJORLY screwing with us, or all five contestants were going to move on to the finals.
Which, for the most part, I like. It would have been tough to see any of them go home after cooking like that for their various mothers and spouses. Even the whole "Mike and Antonia are distantly related" bit and Mike's humanizing story involving his grandmother endeared me to him a bit (though I couldn't help thinking, "hey, Mike, I wonder what your grandma would have thought about you stealing Richard's dish?"). By all accounts, the food was really, really good (Tom and Gail's blogs both confirm the food really was spectacular and not a trick of editing).
However, there's part of me that is bugged by the judges being unable to single out a loser. Yeah, the food was great, but that just means their job is that much harder. As it is, it seems like they're just giving everyone another chance to screw something up so badly they get sent home, instead of actually definitively judging the contestants' work. I mean, what happens if everyone cooks this well in the finale? If no one makes thick risotto or undercooked potatoes or salty soup? The judges should be able to evaluate the food without needing an obvious screw up to indicate the loser.
Still, I'm not that upset that all five are sticking around. Of the remaining contestants, Mike is probably the only one I'd be happy to see leaving, and it was clear early on he wasn't going to get eliminated. So we may as well do it all again, in the Bahamas, and hope Richard doesn't choke like he did the last time he was in the Caribbean for a Top Chef finale.
Richard's wife was kind of a hotty, and Carla's husband seems oddly familiar to me.
The toll of the challenge is showing on Richard's face; he was scowly throughout Judges' Table, even when everyone was praising his dish, he seems more nervous and twitchy than ever, and I'm pretty sure he almost murdered Padma at the end there.
Situations like this (a round of dishes where everything is good) is another case where abandoning their whole "evaluate the dishes on the merits of each challenge" approach would come in handy. Here, the judges could have acknowledged that everyone made a great dish in this round, but in order to determine who to send home, they will look at everyone's overall performance throughout the season (in which case, Tiffany or maybe Mike would have gone home. But probably Tiffany).
The Big Bang Theory: The Cohabitation Formulation
By now this episode is a bit old, but it's the first one in awhile about which I feel compelled to comment.
First of all, let's just say my jaw almost hit the floor when an episode of a show that has rarely shown any concern for continuity or ongoing character development started with a "Previously on..." segment. What followed, at least in the "Penny reacts to Leonard's new girlfriend" story, was one of the show's better outings of late. Sheldon was more or less relegated to a supporting role (where he works best), Amy's odd friendship with Penny continues to be pleasantly surprising, and the jokes involving Raj forbidding his sister from dating Leonard were funny without being mean to the character.
Unfortunately, the episode's other plot, involving Howard moving out of his mother's house and in with Bernadette, was much less effective. Howard is such a broad character who, even four seasons and a romantic subplot into the show, remains the most caricatured of everyone, that when the show tries to do a legitimate storyline involving him (taking his relationship with Bernadette to the next level) it just doesn't work. He's not a real enough character to be dealing with real storylines. I mean, how can we believably be invested in a story between three characters in which one of those characters is nothing more than a one-joke grating voice that played out years ago?